René Marie

How Can I Keep from Singing?

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A forty-something singer who retired to raise a family in the Virginia-D.C. area, Marie is making a comeback, and it's a welcome egress. She has a strong individualistic, enjoyable voice which includes parts of Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, and Teri Thornton -- most closely Thornton. She's smooth but never slick, easy on the ears, with a good range and a deep, rich instrument that can easily belt when commanded. Pianist Mulgrew Miller, guitarist Marvin Sewell, and drummer Gerald Cleaver comprise the glue of these sessions, the ultimate musical accompanists and button pushers. Marie tackles some interesting re-arrangements, like the quick samba version of "What a Difference a Day Makes," atypical hard scattish bopping "God Bless the Child," and Sewell's Duane Allman-ish slide guitar during a bluesy swing take of "Tennessee Waltz" with Marie moaning, groaning, and yeah-ing on the bridge. "Motherless Child" starts with Ugonna Okegwo's bass and Marie's voice, then merges to light Fender Rhodes based funk for Nina Simone's tale of the black Aunt Sarah, yellow woman/white fathered Sefronia, tan prostitute Sweet Thing, and brown toughie Peaches on "Four Women." Most in the mainstream, Marie sings with Miller in duet and trio on the ballad "The Very Thought of You," the cute, standard, easily swung "A Sleepin' Bee," and on the edge, the delineated, slow 6/8 "Afro-Blue" with jungle percussion by Jeffrey Haynes, soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, Oscar Brown's deep lyric, and Marie's nervous oohs. As a songwriter Marie shines on the best cut of the date, "I Like You," a hip, swinging modal piano buoying an exhaustive, extended lyric where she likes this special someone more than just about anything. There's also the light bossa original, not the pop tune, "Take My Breath Away" with Sewell's acoustic guitar, and the Enya penned title track, using various pop, folk, and ethnic nuances with Newsome and hand percussion inserted. All in all this is a credible effort that should pave the way for much more, as Marie is quite capable and talented. Recommended.

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